I’ve decided to write this post because I remember how daunting it felt receiving so little knowledge about what Selection would be.
My selection course took place on 4th April- 8th April. The course is at Project Trust Headquarters on the Isle of Coll, a tiny Island off of the west coast of Scotland. However my journey to Coll started on the 3rd of April.
I woke up eager but nervous as this was my first adventure alone. My boyfriend and I walked to the station, me wearing a huge rucksack with everything I needed for the next 6 days inside.
I went to Eastbourne Station and my journey started at 11am. By 12pm I was at Gatwick Airport and had to find my way around an airport for the first time without my family. The journey was only about an hour long but it was a painful hour. I was in the middle of two women, both who fell asleep the entire journey and kept nodding off on my shoulder. Once we arrived in Glasgow, I realised Scotland was just as grey and gloomy as I expected. But I loved it! I’ve always loved the accents.
Once I left the airport I had to get a bus to Glasgow Queen Street Station which took about 15 minutes. The buses leave the airport roughly once every 15 minutes. I had a few hours spare before getting another train to Oban. I decided to have a look around the city centre, trying not to get too lost. I was amazed by the buildings.
By 6pm I was on the 3 and a half hour long train journey to Oban. There were few people on the train and it turns out several were also going to the selection course. Unfortunately none of us plucked up the courage to ask one another. The train journey went through Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, which was breathtaking. It felt like I’d suddenly been transported to the forest from Twilight.
Once we reached Oban it was a 5-10 minute walk to Backpackers Plus which is a hostel where most Project Trust volunteers stay before/after selection, training and debriefing. The staff there put all the girls on the selection in one dorm and all the boys in another. Although we all ended up in the girls room chatting until late. Backpackers Plus made me felt so at ease about selection and i definitely recommend staying there rather than any other hostels in Oban. A boy from the selection course also stayed there but in a private room and admitted he regretted it deeply as we had all already got to known each other before the ferry journey the next day.
The next morning we all woke up early, got as ready as quick as we could and ran to the Ferry Port to collect our tickets and boarded the ferry at 7:15am. The ferry took roughly 3 hours but it was the perfect opportunity to get to know each other better and meet the others joining us for selection who hadnt stayed at Backpackers.
The next 4 days went incredibly quickly. Its hard to remember what happened in what order. We were put into group A and group B with two leaders, Flora and Alice. Alice was my group leader and was a returned volunteer from Namibia. We were then split into different groups to go to our accommodation for the next 4 days, our host families. My host family was a lovely middle aged woman who lived in a cottage alone. Her children had also done gap years with project trust but have now grown up. Whilst I was there she said her daughter was currently in Syria helping the refugees, which I thought was remarkable. She had 2 cats which were her daughters which she had brought back from her time abroad. I was staying at this host home with Jake and Alasdair. Jake was from Wales and Alasdair from Scotland. We got on really well. We helped our host by clearing after meals and washing up. She refused to let us help her cook as she said it was a pleasure. Most the time we spoke about silly things like what adverts are broadcasted in our countries. For example, Jake had never heard the Cillit Bang advert with Barry Scott, which I always laugh at because of the way the man speaks as if he is well known.
There were a few key parts of the selection course. One being a presentation on the last day about one feature of the Isle of Coll. Which was harder than it seems as there is barely any information about Coll online as it is so small. My presentation was about the history of the Island. I found out most of my information by talking to people on the Island and reading the annual magazines.
Another key part was teaching a lesson to the rest of the group. We were given some time before hand to prepare and then 10 minutes to teach the lesson. My lesson was a brief outline of Classical Conditioning from my psychology A level.
On one of the days we spent it helping the locals on the Island. I spent it with Georgie and Fran at a families home, digging at a mud piles to move it. The mud pile came from when they had dug out the mud to build the foundations and then the house. We were simply making the mud pile less steep so the family could get a digger into the back of the garden. It rained and it wasn’t the most enjoyable task but honestly I would do it again if I could. We spoke to the family about their lives on Coll. We also spoke about where we hope to go for our year, what we want to do after etc. The dogs came out a few times which they weren’t supposed to be doing but they were so cute, we couldn’t be mad at them.
On another day we climbed to the top of Ben Hogh which is about 100 metres high. It was hard work as it was rather boggy and I slipped a few times. It was hilarious though as Amy put her foot in a bog which went all the way up to her thigh and was stuck for a while. Once we reached the top we sat and ate lunch.
Once we climbed back down we walked to some lazybeds and done some lazy bed digging. Whilst half the group did that, half of us went to see some remains of old houses. Both were great chances to just get down to earth and spend time with people and hear about different ways of life, even when we’re all from the UK!
Some nights Jake, Alasdair and I would go to the beach. As the Island is so tiny you barely have to walk far before you find a beach. They were just stunning. I took many panoramas because simple normal sized pictures didnt take in enough of the beauty. The sunsets on the beach were also insane. I just wish I had taken a better camera rather than my phone.
On the last night we had a Ceilidh at the headquaters. A ceilidh is a Scottish social event with folk music and dancing. We danced until our feet were sore. Some of the volunteers were scottish and knew a few moves already giving them an advantage. It was such a fun experience though.
The next morning we were all very tired on the ferry journey home. After only knowing each other for 4 days, we all had become rather close and a few even cried. It was upsetting and I’ll never forget these people, they started this incredible journey with me.
If you are reading this debating whether to go on the selection course with Project Trust, I have to tell you to do it! It will be one of the best memories of your life no matter what background you come from or what lifestyle you have. Even if you think after selection that a year abroad with Project Trust isn’t right for you, it will still be an amazing experience you won’t regret doing.
The journey there and back was a huge step to start with. But on this course I learned a lot of things about myself, about others and how the world works. I see this course as the start of my new life. Please don’t regret not going for it!